Run Day Information
This fun run for the strong of stomach is held in September. There is no entry form or registration fee, only a requirement that you bring M&Ms (no mint) and a beer to share. Runners line up around 8 a.m. Food, M&Ms, beer and beverages are available after the run, during the run and before the run.
Event Organizers: Sarah Kennedy-McCoy, Elizabeth Kennedy Wiechert and Kathryn Schulte
The run will begin Ray's Place, 838 Water Street, Eau Claire where at 8 a.m., the runners will board the bus to Meridian boat landing on the Chippewa River Trail. The runners are expected to find their way back to Ray's Place, mostly by following the Chippewa River bike trail north into Eau Claire, a 17.5 mile journey. The fun run is fully sag wagon supported so runners are able to add on miles or subtract as they wish.
History (adapted from articles by Paul Billmeyer and Mike Salm)
The Beer and M&M run was started by Dick Kennedy, a local physician. The best guess sets the initial running of the race in 1979. Some say the run was started to replace the old Eau Claire Marathon which wasn’t being held any longer. Others say it was started to have a long training run for those planning a fall marathon. Like any history that is passed word of mouth, there is plenty of urban myth that develops. For instance, Don Marjala mentioned how in the early years Dick Kennedy would pick-up some “road kill” the night before the race and drive it 13.1 miles out of town. The next morning the runners would run to the “road kill,” circle it, then run back to town. Few agree this is how it started, but it’s a good story.
Everyone agrees that the race went from the Silver Dollar tavern in Menomonie and would end at the Camaraderie in Eau Claire. Joe Giamonna would open the Silver Dollar early for the racers to have a refreshment before the race began. The race would kick-off with the popping of a beer can. The entry fee was (and still is) a six-pack of beer and a bag of M&M’s. No light beer and no mint M&M’s were allowed. Some like to tell the story of how the runners would have a beer a mile. (More urban legend.) Roger Hubbard recalls the most beer consumed by one runner was 18 cans.
As a joke in 1980 Roger Hubbard advertised the race in Runner’s World magazine. (I recall reading the ad out of Runner’s World when I lived in Dubuque, and looking at a map to find out where Eau Claire was.) The ad brought in a couple of runners from Pennsylvania on their way to the Leadville 100 Race. They are remembered for not drinking any liquids on the race in order to train for the 100 miler. Lastly, I was told the ad also brought a runner from Green Bay who was the first to finish. He was disqualified because he didn’t have a beer along the way.
For a wonderful personal account of the fun run in its early days, read Mark Blaskey's article.
Mike Salm, former president, remembered the 2006 fun run this way: "Paul Billmeyer and I were driving the neighborhoods of the college rental houses that surround the UWEC campus looking for a grill to 'borrow' so that we could cook the hamburgers and bratwursts for the finishing runners. I haven’t tried to “borrow” anything like that for a long, long time. It felt like a twilight zone episode. We knocked on the door of a house that had empty and smashed beer bottles littering the porch. Nobody answered the door. Instead the still-drunk neighbor answered his door next door. So rather than ask to borrow the grill of the apparently comatose college students who resided where we were, we ask the completely intoxicated college student who lived next door to borrow his grill. Of course, we could. He was too drunk to understand a word. Or we didn’t wait to see if he understood."
The final note to this history of the Beer and M&Ms is an email received from Margaret (Kennedy) Poast in May, 2011:
To all at Indianhead Track Club,
I have to let you know that it made my day to come across the Beer and M&M Marathon and Indianhead Track Club web page. I am one of Dick Kennedy's daughters (Margaret, #3 and the one that gave him the most trouble- I am sure some of the older runners remember hearing all about me...) and I just wanted to pass along that all of the stories about the early marathon are true.
I used to drive the "beer car," my dad's old green Land Cruiser, and pass out M&Ms along the way. I was also the one who was assigned the task of picking out all of the Reese's pieces the year that they were dumped in the big blue bowl with all of the M&Ms.
And yes, the road kill story is true too.
Someday I will make it back to Eau Claire and will run this 'race' (with a few of my sisters) in honor of my dad.
Thanks for the smile today!
Margaret (Kennedy) Poast